United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER AFFIRMING AGENCY'S DENIAL OF BENEFITS AND
ORDERING JUDGMENT FOR COMMISSIONER
Barbara A. McAuliffe UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
William Cox (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act. The matter is before the Court on
the parties' briefs, which were submitted without oral
argument to Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe. Having
carefully considered the parties' briefs as well as the
entire record in this case, the Court finds the decision of
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to be
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole
and based upon proper legal standards. Accordingly, this
Court affirms the agency's determination to deny
January 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed his current application for
DIB, alleging disability beginning February 1, 2009. AR
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. AR 90-97, 102-114. Subsequently, Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an ALJ. ALJ Daniel G. Heely held a
hearing on February 9, 2015, and issued an order denying
benefits on August 19, 2015. AR 10-20. The ALJ's decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. AR 1-3. This appeal followed.
administrative hearing held in Stockton, California,
Plaintiff appeared and testified with the help of an
attorney, and the ALJ sought testimony from vocational expert
(“VE”) Valerie Williams. AR 21.
first questioned Plaintiff about his previous employment.
Based on Plaintiff's earning records, the ALJ noted that
Plaintiff last worked in 2009. AR 24. When asked whether
Plaintiff could resume working, Plaintiff testified that he
was not sure whether he could perform full-time work. AR 24.
respect to his impairments, Plaintiff primarily complains of
numbness on the bottom of his right foot for which Plaintiff
wears a walking cast. AR 25-27. Plaintiff had surgery on his
ankle in 1993. AR 25. Due to nerve damage, Plaintiff
experiences constant pain in his foot and takes medication
for the related neuropathy. AR 26, 32. Plaintiff also uses a
cane to ambulate due to problems in his knees and his foot.
AR 26, 30. Plaintiff wears a brace on his right knee and
testified that he should also wear a brace on his left knee
but that he does not have an extra one. AR 30.
Plaintiff's knees are generally fine when the weather is
warm but they bother him when the weather is cold or he moves
in “the wrong direction.” AR 32. Plaintiff also
experiences pain between his wrist and left elbow and hearing
loss. AR 26-27. In terms of mental functioning, Plaintiff
testified that he has never received any type of mental
health treatment. AR 28.
asked about his daily activities, Plaintiff testified that he
lives with his wife and his cousins. AR 28. He does not need
help getting dressed or taking care of personal hygiene, but
testified that he sometimes gets dizzy if he gets up too
fast. AR 33. Plaintiff can squat and bend over provided he
does so slowly. AR 33-34. In addition to mostly watching
television all day, he attends church weekly and bible study
occasionally. AR 29. He does not drive because his
driver's license is expired and generally walks or takes
public transportation to get around. AR 29.
the ALJ asked VE Williams hypothetical questions based upon
the medical record and the ALJ's subsequent RFC finding.
AR 34. After asking the VE to contemplate an individual of
the same age, education, and work background as Plaintiff,
the VE determined that Plaintiff could perform work as it
exists in the national economy. AR 35-37.
entire medical record was reviewed by the Court. AR 286-537.
The medical evidence will be referenced below as necessary to
this Court's decision.
the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not
meet the disability standard. AR 9-15. More particularly, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial
gainful activity since February 1, 2009. AR 11. The ALJ
identified Plaintiff's degenerative joint disease as a
severe impairment. AR 11. Nonetheless, the ALJ determined
that the severity of Plaintiff's impairment did not meet
or exceed any of the listed impairments. AR 11-12.
on his review of the entire record, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a limited range of medium
work. Although Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant
work, the ALJ determined he remained able to perform other
work existing in significant numbers in the economy. AR
14-15. The ALJ therefore found that Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. AR 15.